Another month down! I've now done 3 months. Today is Mother Goose Day, a day to re-appreciate nursery rhymes. They may have once been seen as inconsequential rhymes, but now we see them as an important part of oral history and literature.
Nursery rhymes are often the first exposure children have to the rhythm and rhyme of language. They are fun. For generations children have laughed at Humpty Dumpty falling off the wall, Jack and Jill falling down and pies full of blackbirds. Babies laugh when someone play This Little Piggie on their toes!
• introduce children to story structure in its simplest form. There is an orientation - Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater has a wife. There is a problem - He's having trouble keeping her. And, there is a resolution - He puts her in a pumpkin shell and there he keeps her very well.
• introduce children to a cast of characters who are going to keep reappearing throughout their reading life. You cannot enjoy and fully comprehend books such as Ahlberg's Each Peach Pear Plum, Anholt's Seriously Silly Rhymes and Libby Hathorn's Over the Moon if you don't get the allusions to nursery rhymes.
• enrich children's vocabulary. They use words that may no longer be in everyday use, but are still useful to know. It is your chance to explain words such as 'pail' (Jack and Jill); 'lean' (Jack Sprat); 'curds', 'whey', 'tuffet' (Little Miss Muffet).
• encourage thinking skills. Many of them are riddles e.g.As I was going to St Ives.
Many of the parents I interact with, feel that their children are past nursery rhymes, but it is not until they are able to read them for themselves that they can have maximum fun with them. They can now play with them, innovate on them, corrupt them etc. They can change Baa Baa Black Sheep to Moo Moo brown cow, Have you any milk? Yes Ma'am, Yes Ma'am, Three buckets filled. They can corrupt them as has happened in playground rhymes such as those in June Factor's books such as Far Out Brussell Sprout where Hickory Dickory Dock becomes
Hickory, dickory, dock,
Two mice ran up the clock.
The clock struck one,
And the other got away.
Dig out all the Nursery Rhyme collections and encourage activities such as:
* compare how different illustrators depict the same character. Make sure you include older anthologies such as a Kate Greenaway one with a newer one such as a Rosemary Wells one. Which illustrator's picture most closely matches the one you have in your head?
* play games with the rhymes such as charades, who am I, and what is the next line?
* do some cooking or eating. Introduce children to curds and whey (an old term for cottage cheese) or peas porridge (a thick pea soup).
* research the origin of specific rhymes. Who was Mother Goose? Who was Old King Cole?
But, the best thing to do is to read aloud from an extensive collection of rhymes and find some that are new to you and the children.